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Napster Japan to begin Asia's 1st flat-rate online music service.

TOKYO, Oct. 3 Kyodo

Napster Japan Inc., under the wing of Tower Records Japan Inc., said Tuesday it will become the first in Asia to launch a flat-rate Napster online music distribution service -- at 10 p.m. the same day.

The service will offer subscribers a selection of 1.9 million or so tunes that are on offer from 276 record companies for a flat monthly fee of 1,280 yen and they can also transfer the downloaded music to portable players, for 1,980 yen a month, company officials said.

Napster Japan aims to win 1 million subscribers over the next three years.

Once customers end their subscription, they will lose access to all music titles.

An outright purchase that will let the buyers keep the music purchased indefinitely will cost 150 to 200 yen per tune.

Music offerings include those from Sony Music Network Inc., whose titles are not available on the iTunes service of Apple Computer Inc., the officials said.

The Napster services are already available in the United States and Europe.

At the moment, Apple is leading in the area of online music distribution because of its hugely popular iPod, onto which music is downloaded from iTunes.

The Sony Corp. group and Usen Corp. have also entered the fray while record companies have become more willing to release their titles online thanks to advances in technology to deter counterfeiting and otherwise protect copyrights as well as improvements in the sound quality.

Cellphone companies are also eyeing the new mode of music distribution as a new way to win more customers.

The new Napster service can transmit music onto computers that run on the Windows 2000 or XP platform, the company said.

Music can be transferred via the new Napster service onto some cellphones of NTT DoCoMo Inc., which has capital ties with Tower Records Japan.

More than 90 percent of some 1.9 million titles on offer are Western music so the company aims to release more Japanese tunes in the future, Napster Japan President Hiroyuki Fushitani said.

Napster Japan is a joint venture between Tower Records Japan, Los Angeles-based Napster LLC and Nikko Principal Investments Japan Ltd., which was founded in October last year.
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Publication:Japan Computer Industry Scan
Date:Oct 9, 2006
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